Prices up for hotels, rental cars

LAWRENCEVILLE - Although gasoline prices rose slightly from 2005, holiday travelers will pay considerably more for hotels and rental cars this season.

National gas prices are holding steady at $2.23 per gallon. That's only 2 cents higher than this time last year, according to AAA's Fuel Gauge Report. However, motorists will face hotel rates that are up 16 percent from 2005 and rental car costs that have zoomed up 21 percent, said Mike Pina, spokesman for AAA.

Nevertheless, Americans love to travel and AAA doesn't expect those rates to hinder their mobility.

"Gas prices are lower (than earlier this year), and people are back to traveling," Pina said. "We are seeing the biggest increase in travel this year."

National gas prices spiked during the July travel season at $3.03 per gallon.

The company expects 31 million people, or 80 percent of holiday travelers, to drive to their destinations over the Thanksgiving holidays. That figure represents a 2.7 percent increase over last year.

The Georgia State Patrol is predicting an increase in traffic accidents and fatalities, as well.

The Thanksgiving holiday weekend, which runs from

6 p.m. today through midnight Sunday, is traditionally the deadliest travel period of the year. The Georgia State Patrol is predicting 20 fatalities and 1,301 injuries from 2,915 wrecks on Georgia roads this holiday weekend, spokesman Gordy Wright said.

Those figures are slightly higher than 2005's 17 fatalities, 1,227 injuries and 2,760 traffic accidents for the same period. Still, recent traffic fatality numbers are lower than usual, Wright said.

"Seventeen is lower than over the past several years," Wright said. "We used to average 23 to 24 deaths, due to Thanksgiving's length. The holiday spans 102 hours versus 72 hours typical of other holidays. Thanksgiving is the heaviest traveled and the deadliest."

In 2005, one person was killed on Gwinnett County roads during Thanksgiving weekend.

Drivers will see more patrols and road checks during those 102 hours. The Georgia State Patrol will partner with local law enforcement agencies to enforce seat belt and child restraint laws, spot unlicensed drivers and those driving under the influence, Wright said.

Roads, however, should be easier to navigate due to suspended lane closures. The Georgia Department of Transportation announced that all lanes will be open on interstates and state roads throughout Georgia for the duration of the holiday weekend.

The DOT said some work may continue on lesser-traveled state roads.